Getting color (and especially keeping it) is an activity that many dedicate themselves to in the summer. But can food improve our tan? Protect us from the sun? Or prevent our skin from aging faster?

Some foods contain substances that could promote these processes. "Eat carrots and you will have a beautiful skin" this saying refers to carotenoids, this orange and yellow pigment, which is found in carrots but also in other fruits and vegetables such as melons, tomatoes or peppers. But are its properties on our skin true?

The color of the skin is indeed impacted by our consumption of carotenoids. However, we can observe an acquisition of an orange color (pigmentation) and not a tan (melanin synthesis). The term "tan" is therefore more appropriate with regard to the evolution of the complexion.

Concerning the protective aspect, carotenoids have an antioxidant role at the epidermis level. It is in particular the association of beta-carotene (precursor of carotenoids) with vitamin E which would make it possible to delay the appearance of sunstrokes and to protect against the cutaneous damage induced by the rays. The same is true for vitamin C, which would also have this photoprotective role.

  • Summer sources of beta-carotene: apricot, fig, mango, papaya, carrot, red bell pepper, broccoli
  • Sources of vitamin E: vegetable oils (wheat germ, sunflower and rapeseed,...), nuts (almonds, hazelnuts,...), fatty fish (salmon,..)
  • Summer sources of vitamin C: blackcurrant, kiwi, lemon, red bell pepper, broccoli, parsley

Consuming beta-carotene in combination with vitamin E and C would therefore have benefits. However, skin protection is obviously not comparable to the use of a sun cream. Some dietary supplements make claims such as "prolongs tanning" or "prepares and strengthens tanning". These effects are currently not scientifically supported.

Omega 3s also have benefits for our skin, especially EPA. They would be able to reduce UV-induced inflammation in addition to offering a potential protection against the risks of cancer and aging related to the sun.

  • Sources of omega 3 (EPA): fatty fish and fatty fish oils (salmon, sardines, mackerel, cod liver, herring, etc.)

It can be concluded that combined measures of sun protection by sunscreen and diet can optimize the protection of the skin against sunlight.

Lea De Stefano

HES dietician